Chargers Gameday Primer

Do the Chargers really have to get pumped for Sunday night action in front of a National audience? There are plenty of subplots to ensure they do, not the least of which is the Chargers 0-2 record.

On Offense:

Dictate the pace of the game. Over the last two games, both losses, the Chargers have allowed the defense to set the pace of the game and have been burned. They can't sit back and allow the defense to change what they will do on offense.

That means getting LaDainian Tomlinson involved in all facets of the game. An early pass to Tomlinson would trigger a bubble of excitement throughout the already hyped crowd.

"The emotions of the fans are going to trickle down," said Tomlinson. "Anytime the fans are energized it gets us going."

The offense is challenged with becoming more versatile and a lot of that falls on the shoulders of Drew Brees. He talked about spreading the ball around but only three players have more than two catches so far this year.

Brees and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron have to breakthrough the pressure packages they have been seeing over the last two weeks. If they can't find a way to beat the pressure it will continue to come each week. With man-on-man coverage to the outside, they have to find a way to complete the big pass.

So much to do, so little time. Thirty touches is the goal for LaDainian Tomlinson. Getting him the ball is essential. He is the guy who wants the team to be placed on his shoulders in a time of need. Perhaps it is no surprise that the team is 0-2 because of his limited usage.

"He's a huge part of our offense and the best player on the field," Brees said. "So, he needs to see the ball as much as possible.

"But, being balanced is also important because when you are balanced, you keep the defense off balance. The run sets up the pass and the pass sets up the run. On one hand we want to get LT a lot of touches and then there are other guys that should be getting the ball too - Gates, Keenan McCardell, Eric Parker. There are a lot of guys that can make plays when they get the ball in their hands. So, we'll look to spread it around as usual, but definitely LT needs to get more touches than he has the last two games."

Admittance is the first step towards acceptance. Execution is all that is left.

On Defense:

Establish the tempo and make it a little personal. That does not mean being reckless or careless but it does mean having a little edge.

Eli Manning can't become comfortable at any point in the game.

Manning has played only three road games in his brief career - at Washington, at Baltimore and at Cincinnati, all last season.

"I don't think it'll be too pleasant," Manning said of coming to San Diego. "I'm sure I'll get booed. I'm sure they'll be loud when we have the ball."

His numbers in those games have the Chargers and their fans salivating. He is 35-for-80 (43.8%) for 341 yards, with no touchdowns and three interceptions - and he lost all three.

"The front seven is taking it personal to get as much pressure on the guy as we can to get him uncomfortable," said linebacker Steve Foley. "Young quarterbacks – getting pressure on him he is prone to make mistakes."

There are several defenders who believe Manning insulted them, their work ethic, and ability to pull together. Although no one would go on record in describing just how much of his head they wanted to take off, there were quite a few players who talked about him being above everyone else.

At the same time, they can't get caught up in the rhetoric. Remember, the first responsibility is still stopping the run. The Giants would like to deflate the emotions of the defense by pounding it snap after snap. The Chargers' success a year ago was due to their stout run defense and it will be needed against a solid back such as Tiki Barber.

Barber has 145 rushing yards this season to go with 66 yards receiving and is dual-threat much like Tomlinson. He has three straight seasons with 1,200-plus yards and has caught 50-plus passes in six consecutive seasons.

"I am a big fan of Tiki Barber," head coach Marty Schottenheimer admitted. "I think he is a terrific player."

The Bolts may need to put a shadow linebacker on him as he slides out of the backfield. Or they could simply try to pressure the Giants similar to the way their offense has been.

If they do bring the run blitzes and people creep up to the line, the cornerbacks' play on Plaxico Burress and whomever is on Jeremy Shockey will tell the tale. Bumps at the line and throwing them off their route are a must, especially when the pressure is on its way.

On Special Teams:

The Giants bring one of the best special teams units to town this week. Two touchdown returns on kickoffs through two weeks.

"Their kicking game is off the charts," Schottenheimer said.

The Chargers kicking game, meanwhile, has not been as good as in then past.

The Chargers are allowing almost 14 yards per punt return (compared to 7.1 yards last season) and the opposition is returning punts at an impressive 63 percent clip (compared to 23 percent a year ago). While we are only done with two weeks of the season they would like to nip this in the bud and turn it into a strength.

In an emotion-filled day, special teams is often the difference maker. A big return here or a huge stop can start the momentum swing.


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